WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield Board of Education approved a list of leaves of absences for teachers at Tuesday’s meeting, catching the attention of a board member and parents alike. 

Board member Sahar Aziz asked if the list was longer than usual and how the district was finding replacements for the employees going on leave.

Schools Superintendent Margaret Dolan said “this has been a year with personnel like never before” and that there are more leave requests than normal. Administrators have been creative with finding replacements, she said.

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Washington Street resident Willard Shih said his daughter’s fifth-grade teacher is taking a leave of absence because of a district directive that all teachers be available to teach in person. He was concerned about instructors being “asked to go on leave rather than risk their health.”

Dolan said that, in the beginning of the current school year, some teachers could not arrange for childcare for their families and some did not come back in person for health reasons.

Although some teachers then came back after a few weeks or months, the district was struggling with personnel, so teachers were notified in January that “we need you back, and we need you in person,” Dolan said. 

The superintendent did not give any details about individual personnel situations, but said, “every day there are challenges with people who have their own illness, not to mention people who are quarantining.” 

Not all teachers who are on leave will stop teaching. 

District spokeswoman Mary Ann McGann told TAPinto Westfield that “staff with compromising health issues are on leave and will continue to teach remotely. Staff members who were on leave for child care reasons were given time and notice to find child care solutions before their return date.”

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